I was taught various techniques of handling hot glass at the age of 13 by my uncle who was a scientific glass-blower and owned his own business in south London. He sold laboratory glassware to schools and universities. I became proficient in several simple techniques. My first job was making a test tube and my second was making 1000! We were asked to demonstrate making glass animals at a local charity event and I soon realised how attractive glass-blowing was to an audience and became hooked on performing. I don’t believe in the term “self-taught” as everyone learns from others even if it’s by reading a book. I wanted to learn various methods of working and went to work for those that were, at the time, leaders in their field. My journey to Caithness involved spells at glassy establishments in Manchester and Hertfordshire, both of them magic. I joined the Dounreay establishment in 1981 as a scientific glass-blower and was very soon involved in making artistic glassware for presentations to staff when they left. I have attended many conferences, some organised by the British Society of Scientific Glassblowers, which I chaired for many years, and learned a lot of people skills. I used these in my work chiefly on how not to burn myself. Sometimes the best way to learn is to teach and I have been lucky to do this. I opened my glass studio in 1990 and since then my customers have taught me a lot. I tend to say I can make anything in glass but sometimes I make things not exactly as the customer expected. It’s from that moment when a commission is unveiled that I have learned the most.
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